Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Friday, September 3, 2010
The Grand Forks, Fargo, Minneapolis Trek
The Metrodome in the foreground of the skyline of Minneapolis.
Every long weekend (and often any weekend), a steady and sometimes very large stream of traffic flows south down Highway 75 to the U.S. with the intent of combining a shopping trip with a holiday.
The three primary destinations usually are Grand Forks, Fargo and Minneapolis.
Grand Forks has generally been the quickest destination for a family with young children, those that don't like to drive far or those with only a few days. Columbia Mall has always been a favourite with Winnipeggers ever since it was built in 1978. With Target, JCPenny and Dayton's as it main attractions, Winnipeggers flocked to hotels nearby and shopped in a fairly stylish mall for the time. For a time in the 1970s, many Winnipeggers by-passed Grand Forks to go to Fargo's West Acres Mall which was built in 1972.
I remember that I felt there was a huge difference in the look and feel of Columbia Mall and that West Acres felt like it was from a different era. Through the 1980s and 1990s, Grand Forks remained the closest and possibly the best regarded shopping excursion destination for Winnipeggers. The opening of the first Wal-Mart in 1990 in Grand Forks and rise of the Canadian dollar for a time led to huge crowds in the city. At roughly two hours away from Winnipeg, it seemed everyone was going down to shop.
The Wal-Mart Supercenter opened in 2008 to compete with the Target Supercenter that had opened across from Columbia Mall in 2001. Columbia Mall has never quite been the same since it lost Target. Even with the opening of Sears in the mall in 2000 and the change of Dayton's to Macy's, the mall has not found anyone to occupy the boarded up Target. The movie theatres in the parking lot closed a few years ago as well. The mall in 2009 completed a food court but there are still empty store fronts today.
After the 1997 flood, one of the hotels we stayed at was never the same. The Westward Ho was badly damaged. We stayed there twice after the repairs but the flood damage was too much. It was around this time that our family started making a journey to Fargo as Grand Forks re-built.
I believe that we weren't the only ones to see that the street where the mall was located 12th Avenue had become a hub of big box stores not found in Grand Forks. Barnes and Noble became a favourite stop if only for a day trip from our Grand Forks hotel. Eventually, our family started to by-pass Grand Forks altogether.
While Grand Forks remains a big attraction for the people of Winnipeg, it is not unusual to see many Manitoba licences all over Fargo on a long weekend as well.
The more intrepid travellers and avid shopper makes the full trek to Mall of America in Minneapolis. The casinos and sports teams also are destinations for many people. The Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Wild draw regular Winnipeg visitors year round. The Mall of America opened in 1992 and has probably contributed greater number of Winnipeggers by-passing Grand Forks and Fargo altogether. Combined the mall with the factory outlet stores in Albertville, Minnesota and most power shoppers can't resist making it a four day weekend.
Over the years the rise and fall of the dollar and the steady march northward of retailers Winnipeggers like has caused ebbs and flows of traffic down Highway 75. Still, there is likely nothing that will stop the travel south of the border for a getaway that involves a little relaxation and shopping.